The EPUB specification is a distribution and interchange format standard for digital publications and documents. EPUB defines a means of representing, packaging and encoding structured and semantically enhanced Web content — including HTML5, CSS, SVG, images, and other resources — for distribution in a single-file format.
EPUB has been widely adopted as the format for digital books (eBooks), and significantly increases the opportunity for a high degree of accessibility within a mainstream file format. The EPUB Accessibility Specification outlines the accessibility requirements for all types of EPUB files.
However, it must be emphasised that it is indeed possible to create an unaccessible EPUB 3 file if these features are not employed and readers should not assume that an EPUB file automatically provides an accessible solution. The publisher/developer must ensure that the format is used to its best advantage in this respect. And these enhancements alone don’t make ebooks accessible. The creation of accessible content requires due diligence both in production and quality assurance processes.
Where possible educators should request an EPUB file from publishers or retailers and ideally that EPUB will have accompanying accessibility metadata to inform the reader of exactly which accessibility features have been made available. See our page on procuring accessible files for further information.
EPUB for Education
The “EPUB for Education” profile has fine tuned the functionality of the EPUB format taking into account the structural and semantic requirements of educational publishing.
The profile builds on the EPUB 3 specification in the following ways and, as such, enhances the accessibility of education files:
- adds semantics for common components and structures
- defines rules for including content that may be created externally, such as assessments (e.g., QTI)
- includes accessibility features for compliance with educational standards
- enables the identification of discrete content entities
- allows the embedding of shared scriptable components
- adds support for annotations
- defines guidelines for the creation and inclusion of images
More information is provided in the EPUB for Education profile.
Publishing@W3C maintains and manages the EPUB specification
These top tips highlight the main areas that should be addressed when creating accessible EPUB 3 files
This document outlines the nine principles that higher education institutions should consider when developing, adopting and using digital course materials to ensure accessibility for all students.